Breakfast of Blossoms

The best thing about buying food at farmers’ markets is that one is much more likely to pick up something that you’ve never tried before. This isn’t an original statement, I know, but it continues to be true, even for people like me, who are a bit too interested in all the different ways of filling their stomachs.

Who needs to stop at regular cucumbers, when one can try lemon cucumbers, Italian cucumbers, Japanese cucumbers, and Korean cucumbers? Why eat nothing but baby greens when the next bag over contains arugula, perilla, shiso or amaranth? Turnips are great, but what about burdock? Strawberries are delicious, but what look: ground cherries! Saskatoons! Black currants! Not everything ends up being to my taste (the Saskatoons were not a hit) but some become new favorites (I don’t think I’ve ever met a root I didn’t like). Sometimes the untried foods aren’t even exotic or unknown, just things I’ve never gotten around to trying.

Enter zucchini blossoms.

Everybody knows about zucchini blossoms—they’ve almost become a cliché of pretentious poseur cuisine. Stuffed with cheese and braised, fried as tempura, poached, the recipes are everywhere. The blossoms are very pretty, but often expensive (after all, each blossom is a squash that will never grow). As intriguing and delicious as the recipes sounded, I had never tried them for one reason: I am cheap.

One recent market day, though, I was under the weather and needed a pick-me-up. In spite of the rather exorbitant price, I splurged on a big bunch of the zucchini blossoms and took them home for lunch. I stuffed them with a spiced goat cheese, simmered them for a few moments in a good broth, and gobbled them up. The combination of the hot, homemade chicken broth and the creamy cheese was perfect for a summer cold, but the strength of their flavors overwhelmed that of the zucchini blossoms themselves. Still—what I could taste was appealing and intriguing, and I resolved to try the blossoms again, but in a more delicate preparation.

The following Saturday, then, I bought another bunch of zucchini blossoms at the market. I didn’t want to eat them until the next morning, so I carefully wrapped the big, healthy bunch in a paper towel, then put it into an open plastic bag and into the lettuce drawer in my refrigerator. (Technically, this crisper drawer has a picture of an apple on it, whereas the other drawer has a picture of a turnip, but I use the apple drawer almost exclusively for lettuce and other greens, and the turnip drawer for everything else).

On Sunday morning, I checked to see if the blossoms needed any washing (in fact, they were pristinely clean), then removed the pistils and chopped the petals from their stems.

Zucchini Blossoms

I roughly tore the blossoms into strips, lightly sautéed them for a few minutes in a flavorless oil, then added three eggs, beaten with nothing more than salt, pepper and a tiny drop of water.
Blossoms in the pan
I let the eggs set on the bottom, then lifted up the edges to let the raw portion flow underneath, creating layers upon layers. In less than five minutes I had a moist, fluffy and perfectly set golden omelet, shot through with the fresh green and deeper orange tones of the blossoms.

Zucchini Blossom Omelet
Indeed, the omelet was a much better way of showing off the flavor of the zucchini blossoms. Unsurprisingly, the blossoms have a flavor strongly reminiscent of zucchini itself, but more elusive, and without the often squishy texture that puts so many people off. The texture of the blossoms, of course, is almost nil, especially after cooking, allowing the flavor to permeate the eggs. The calyx of the flowers has an even stronger flavor of the squash, but with a more toothiness than the blossoms. It’s crisp without being crispy, if that makes any sense; almost like biting into a perfectly fresh slice of ripe zucchini, but brighter, juicier, colder, (the actual temperature notwithstanding) and almost refreshing.

It was a rather austere omelet, given that it contained no butter, milk, or cheese, but the zucchini blossoms gave it a deep and satisfying flavor. The cost may be difficult to absorb, but the benefits are worth it.

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Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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